So I spent the past 4 days in sunny Cincinatti, OH for ACSP's annual conference. I co-presented a paper with my adviser looking at whether climate action and sustainability plans incorporate economic development or equity into account. The presentation seemed to go well but what follows is just a quick listing of some observations and thoughts I collected over the past few days on a variety of notepads, bar napkins, and phone notes...
The conference title was "The Resurgence of Planning in the 21st Century" yet in session after session presenters and discussants despaired at the inability of planners to really have substantive impacts. We still sprawl, have residential displacement through gentrification, suffer from catastrophic job loss, have not adequately prepared for the ravages of climate change, or broken through the inefficiencies of a highly fragmented governmental structure that inhibits cooperation and wide-range planning.
In light of this, what the hell were the organizers thinking with this title? What do they see that no one else at the conference saw? If this is truly the century of a resurgent planning influence, then I'd hate to see us in retreat.
What's your mission?
The Planners of Color Interest Group (POCIG) awarded the first ever Ed Blakely award for excellence in planning to Mel King. Mel's accomplishments are too many to go over here, but he's been a tireless champion of human rights, civil rights, and community activism for decades. In his acceptance speech he castigated all of us in the room, young scholars like myself to titans in the field like June Manning Thomas, for lacking a mission. He pointed out that ALL of the gains the black community were able to make over the past 50 years have been virtually erased. Unemployment remains stubbornly high, massive amounts of incarceration have decimated generations of black people, persistent poverty strangles our communities, and we have seen the re-segregation of the country when we look at how our cities and regions have ordered themselves. And he asks where are we? Where are planners? Where, in particular, are planners of color in trying to address these issues? We have spent the past 5 decades supervising the retreat of the civil rights movement.
It was a heavy trip. But the question is vital: What is your mission? If we can't answer that, then what the hell are we doing?